As mentioned in our May edition of the Digital Digest, Google has decreased the character limit of meta descriptions again after increasing it in December 2017. In light of this we thought that it might be helpful to share some common mistakes that webmasters make when it comes to producing meta descriptions for their pages.
First up, what is a meta description?
The meta description (MD) is a ‘snippet’ (or HTML tag) that is entered into the coding of a web page. The purpose of it is to summarise the content of the page. This condensed summary appears on Search Engine pages (SERPs). In most instances Google will pull in the specific MD text that has been entered by an SEO specialist but in some instances they might pull in other content from the page if they think it will provide a better user-experience for the searcher. It appears below the meta title and website link.
See the example of a meta description appearing on a Google Search page below:
Why are they important?
Some believe that the MD can aid rankings results however in 2009, Google clarified that neither that or meta keywords are a factor when it comes to their ranking algorithms. The MD is very important to support the meta title and help click-through-rates from the page to your website.
How that we’ve cleared that up, to the common mistakes….
The MD copy doesn’t entice a click-through
The meta description is your little pitch to a user to entice them to click on the link and visit your site. It should appeal to a user and be relevant to what is on the page that they’re clicking through to. There are 9+ other organic listings that you are competing with so make sure you sell your product or service.
Descriptions are too long (or too short)
We mentioned in the top introduction that the length was increased and then decreased, but a common mistake we see all the time is that meta descriptions that are too long. The rule-of-thumb is that they should be between 130 to 155 characters (including spaces) to appear optimally in SERPs. If they’re too long, they will be cut-up, cut-off and a …. will appear. See example below:
Similarly if one isn’t entered at all, Google will often pull content from the page at their discretion which isn’t ideal.
MDs are duplicated
Having no duplicated content on your website is always best practice for SEO, so having MDs copies across multiple pages isn’t ideal. Neither is copying content straight from the page and pasting into a meta description field.
Keywords are’n’t included
Ok so I know that above we stated that Google don’t take MDs as a ranking factor, but including the main keywords in a natural, non-spammy way can help click-through rates because they will appear as bold if they’re part of the search query. In the below example, we searched for ‘instagram advertising nz’. In the MD, the phrases ‘instagram’, ‘advertising’ and ‘NZ’ are bolded. This can help to improve click-through-rates because the user can see the terms that they searched for and can see that your listing is relevant.
have you been making any of these? If you need help with your meta data or anything else SEO-related, get in touch with our team on 0800 878 833 today.